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User experience, or UX, is often used interchangeably with user interface (UI) and other design principles. However, it’s much broader than that: Your company’s UX strategies define how customers and the public interact with your brand from top to bottom — not just your website. It can be a tricky thing to nail down, which is why UX designers should concentrate their efforts on these six trouble areas.

1. Build Feature Usability Among Desktop, Mobile and Apps

Step one is building a website that performs as expected across desktop and mobile web browsers. That means photos load quickly and navigation is intuitive. Step two is becoming less optional by the day: Build a smartphone or tablet app to reach users on their preferred devices, and work toward making it their new destination for interacting with your brand and products.

Step three is just as important: Make sure users don’t have to jump back and forth between these platforms to use basic features. Things like shopping, checking account status, customer service, product registration, initiating returns and more should be just as functional within your app as they are on your desktop website.

When it comes to fast-moving industries like e-commerce, it is important to make sure you’re providing a seamless experience across devices, at the same time it is also important to make sure you’re making yourself available to consumers. Spending too much time in development worrying about feature parity can let competitors get ahead.

2. Facilitate an Actual Exchange of Value

We’ve all been there: We visit a website, and within seconds, we’re met with a screen-blocking pop-up asking for an email address. There’s no quicker way to turn off your visitors and make sure you don’t get what you need from them. Here are some thoughts about making this aspect of user experience more beneficial for both parties.

First, remember that the same principle applies after a user installs a mobile app. Can they demo more than just the basic functionality before they’re asked for payment or personal details to continue? How can you prove this is something they actually want?

Remember to use calls-to-action and signup walls tastefully, and only after your visitors have the information they need to make an informed decision. They shouldn’t have to hand over identification to explore your products or services. Let them learn about you and your product first.

Another thing you can do is offer a worthwhile trade. Give them something of value for their email address or phone numbers — such as a trial or sample, resources like e-books and whitepapers, a future discount or something else.

Source: Indochino

The sign-up form above is a great example of how e-commerce sites can make collecting customer data more beneficial for both parties. With this form, Indochino is able to retrieve the data they want while creating a sense of customer loyalty. On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase, so offering 25% off right from the start is likely to help Indochino retain more customers and their wallets.

3. Give them a Reason to Show up in Person

This is important for brick-and-mortar stores and online-first retailers alike. Your audience lives in the digital and physical world and will always have an affinity for local events and in-store experiences. One report indicates that for every chain that closed stores in 2017, 2.7 chains opened additional locations.

Source: Nordstrom

Customers aren’t abandoning brick-and-mortar yet — but they need a reason to come out and see you:

You could even sponsor local and charitable events to build name recognition and good PR in your immediate area.

Nordstrom does a great job of using technology to bridge the gap between physical and digital. Customers can explore merchandise on their desktop or through Nordstrom’s app and request specific items to be set up in an in-store dressing room in their size. This is a great way to create customer engagement with a brand’s applications as well as engagement with their physical store.

4. Make It Effortless for Users to Provide Feedback

Step one: Live by the mantra “improve 1% every day.” It’s common for us to be too close to our products, services and web properties to see their flaws clearly. However, it’s easy to provide interactive forms and surveys throughout the year so clients can suggest ways to make your products and customer service better.

Step two: Providing user surveys might help curb some disappointed user reviews on your website or your online marketplace presence. When it doesn’t, make sure receiving a response is part of the expected user experience. Respond to negative and positive reviews and comments alike, whether on social media, a marketplace, a user forum or elsewhere. This goes a long way toward making your brand seem more human and amenable to change.

5. Revamp Your Search Function for Ease-of-Use

Too many websites make it difficult for customers to find what they’re looking for — or don’t include this functionality at all. Improve your website search function by keeping usability and user experience in mind the whole way through:

  • Include an easy-to-find search function on every page.
  • Provide advanced filters after the initial search results are displayed, not before.
  • Make sure the function searches the whole website and not just the current subsection.
  • Give users a hand with spelling errors by providing similar matches.

Why does Google have a near-monopoly on an internet search? Because it consistently delivers the most relevant results Use this as your model for search feature usefulness.

Want to go a step above and beyond? Take some ideas from Wayfair which is one of the few retailers who have implemented visual search on their mobile site. With mobile shopping continuing to grow, this is a great way to showcase that your brand knows how your customers are using their devices.

6. Figure Out What Your Unique Value Proposition Is

Somebody wise once said, “selling is a transfer of feelings.” Given the sheer number of choices in each industry and marketplace, customers need an emotional connection with your company and brand — “this product makes me feel something” — rather than just a practical one — “this product seems empirically better than the rest.” As before, ask yourself some questions to tackle this potential user experience weak point:

  • How can you provide additional perceived value? Perhaps by offering a smooth and appealing website, products enjoyable to unbox, etc.
  • Tell a story. How can what you offer to fulfil a need and occupy a place in your customers’ lives?
  • What do you do differently? Sustainable manufacturing? Zero emissions? Giving back to employees and/or the community?
  • Do competitor research. Which similar products rank better than yours in search engine results? Is there something obvious about their presentation that sets them apart?
  • Do you have consistent and appealing branding? Does it look like passion goes into every detail? Think about the logo, colour scheme, typography, iconography, product photos and more.
  • Do you exude personality in customer interactions and on social channels?

In short, sticking the landing when it comes to UX means you have to be more than a collection of products. You need to frame yourself as a humanistic institution, in every way you can.

If there’s a tidy conclusion here, it’s to remember to put yourself in the customers’ shoes as early in your business development process as possible. It’s pretty natural to want to jump ahead to product development or focus on something else, but UX consideration can be part of a strong foundation for future success.

Nathan Sykes

Nathan Sykes"Nathan Sykes is the editor of Finding an Outlet, where he writes about the latest in technology and its effects on enterprise and society.
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